How I Got 5 More Minutes with My Mom
This may sound like a strange statement to make.
If you don’t know me, then this might seem totally random, and not a big deal.
And if you do know me, then you’d know this is a complete impossibility.
Bear with me here —
My mom passed away when I was in high school. She battled a long illness that I didn’t know much about at the time.
And being a teenager, let’s face it — I didn’t really care to know the details.
I just knew things in our family were different. For as far back as I could remember, my mom couldn’t do what other mothers could do with their kids. It was just a fact of life.
Other kids had moms who could take them to the park, monkey around on the jungle gym, play dress-up or have dance parties. My mom couldn’t do any of those things. On her best days, she could walk slowly while holding onto the walls. As her disease progressed, she became wheelchair bound. And eventually, she became fully immobilized, 100% bedridden.
She died when I was a high school senior, while I was taking my SATs.
But a short time ago, I was granted five more minutes with her.
And it was amazing.
Let me back up …
Several months ago, when the New England soil was just beginning to thaw from a frigid winter, I planted some seeds in the ground.
More specifically, I planted butterfly weed — Asclepias tuberosa:
Background: Asclepias tuberosa
According to Wikipedia, asclepias tuberosa is “commonly known as butterfly weed because of the butterflies that are attracted to the plant by its color and its copious production of nectar.
It is also the larval food plant of the queen and monarch butterflies. Hummingbirds, bees and other insects are also attracted.”
I had been reading about the types of flowers and plants that are beneficial to our environment. Which ones would specifically attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to my yard.
I already had some knowledge of monarch butterflies. How milkweed is their one and only food source, and they could only lay their eggs on milkweed leaves.
As well as the amazing process of how monarchs evolve through their life cycle, battling their way into existence. Going through metamorphosis, to finally emerge from their chrysalis as a beautiful colored spectacle.
So I planted these seeds to help the monarchs, and hopefully entice them to visit my back yard.
For months I watched as the seeds germinated, and little seedlings began to grow.
And I hoped that one day — once it was warm and sunny enough — I’d be able to see at least one monarch butterfly.
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Waiting is the Hardest Part
By early summer, several of my plants grew tall and sturdy, and started to bud.
Cute little orange pinheads began to burst into breathtaking orangey-red clusters of flowers.
And then I started to pay close attention. I stalked these plants, if you will.
Trying to find a tiny little white saccule, a grouping of infinitesimal black specks of eggs. A sliver of a little baby caterpillar, to provide evidence that a monarch had visited my garden.
But found — nothing.
Sure, I saw plenty of pollen, houseflies, bumblebees, and a couple of stinkbugs here and there.
But no eggs, no little caterpillars, no chrysalis, no butterfly.
I was starting to feel discouraged.
I wondered if maybe the monarchs didn’t know I had planted milkweed for them, and weren’t aware of how to find it.
Was there an online milkweed directory somewhere? Or an internal butterfly notification network, showing where to find the best grub?
It began to feel like a mission:
Heading outside every morning and every afternoon to examine the milkweed.
Would I see a butterfly today? Would it be a monarch?
Such a strange goal to aspire to, but please stick with me –
At some point, I began this bargaining process.
And somehow associated the ever-elusive monarch … with the success of my slowly-burgeoning blog.
If I could just see a butterfly in my garden, SPECIFICALLY a monarch, then I’d know I was meant to be a writer.
The whole process became symbolic. If a monarch appeared, then I’d know I was on the right path.
Weeks turned into a month, and then longer. With nothing. No monarchs.
Although I did see a few smaller butterflies — which may have actually been moths. Not entirely sure.
But I felt like I had to find a monarch. And it goes without saying, it would be impossible to miss. They’re huge, and brightly colored — so there’d be absolutely no doubt once I saw one.
Strangely enough, I actually started praying to see one.
Not an actual on-my-knees, quoting gospel type of prayer. More like “please, just show me something. Give me a sign, so I know what I’m doing actually has meaning.”
I silently asked for guidance from God, from the Universe, and from my mom.
But maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
Although I wasn’t saying I’d actually give up on writing. But having that affirmation would give me a morale boost to keep moving forward.
Meanwhile, the orange-red blossoms had all peaked and fallen to the ground. And while the plants themselves were still strong and green … there were no milkweed blossoms to be seen.
I was ready to resign that possibility for the next season …
And then I woke up one morning to an amazingly awesome surprise.
I was skimming the email from my phone, as I do every morning. And I discovered one of my blog posts had actually been featured on the website Rockstar Finance.
Rockstar Finance is a site that promotes personal finance content from other bloggers. They scour feeds from all over the internet, curating articles to be shared to their massive audience.
If one of your blog posts is chosen to be “Rockstar’d”, it’s kind of a big deal.
And that very morning, it had happened to me. Holy cow, was that an amazing feeling.
Seriously, my entire body started to tingle, it was so surreal.
I always had this goal of “one day, maybe they’ll feature one of my posts — if I write something good enough.”
Crazily enough, that day had arrived —
And I honestly don’t mean to make such a big deal about this — because I know there are bloggers who have been Rockstar’d on multiple occasions. But this was a huge validation for me — to be recognized by such an insanely popular community of money experts.
I was truly flabbergasted and honored that they even took the time to read my stuff.
So yeah, you could say the day started out pretty great.
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How It All Ties Together With My Mom
After going gaga about my online feature, which would generate some desperately needed traffic to my site, I calmed back down a bit.
I took my dogs downstairs to do their morning biz outside, and planned to make myself some coffee.
Walking out onto my back deck, I watched my two bulldogs meander around the yard sniffing whatever crossed their paths.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I detected movement.
The garden planter sitting on the rail of my deck. The one where I planted marigold seeds a month or two earlier. I expected to see a big fat bumblebee, since that’s where they seemed to hang out.
But when I looked to the right, I saw something else:
A large, beautiful, majestic monarch.
Sitting there, in all its bright orange and black glory.
My Monarch Came to Visit
She proceeded to go from flower to flower. As she moved from one marigold to the next, she’d do this swirly little dance in the air, circling about, before landing on the next flower.
As if she were saying “I know what happened to you today! Congratulations!!”
She flew up in the air in circles several times, once going entirely above my head.
I kid you not. I’m all about writing a good story, but this actually happened.
At one point, I looked around, wondering if she had landed on my head. (Which would’ve been AWESOME.)
But then I caught my monarch doing the little swirly dance again, and she came back to rest on another flower.
So at this point, I actually have tears streaming down my face.
Because I know.
On this day, when I finally received this validation that I’ve been needing for quite some time.
I knew she was here.
A monarch butterfly finally graced me with her presence on the day I was featured on a hugely popular personal finance website.
And it was my mom. I’m sure of it.
Call me crazy, and I’m fairly certain some of you will. But I know what I know, and also what I felt …
She was there for a reason, and stayed for a full five minutes before fluttering away into the breeze.
My mom came to visit to let me know she’s still here, and that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
She was also a writer. On the side, as a hobby, just like me.
Although, truth be told, we didn’t share that affinity when I was a little girl. I always thought I wanted to be a singer.
But my mom’s dream was to write a book. And I actually have a few of her handwritten pages from the novel that she left unfinished.
Maybe one day I can finish writing it for her.
But for right now, I just know I have been blessed by having five more minutes with my mom.
The End / The Beginning
This post was started two months ago, on August 15, 2018. I didn’t publish it at the time. But I think it’s because I needed to save it for today.
This weekend was the 27th anniversary of my mom’s passing, and also would’ve been her 71st birthday.
She was 44 years old when she passed away, due to complications after a long, exhausting battle with MS.
Coincidentally, the same age that I am today, as I’m writing this post.
Happy Birthday, Mom.
I miss you.